By Amanda Grant-Stout, Living Coast Discovery Center Director of Education
Did you know there are green sea turtles living in San Diego Bay? Ask any of the 800 4th graders that attend an Ocean Connectors field trip to the Living Coast Discovery Center in the fall of each year, and they will tell you that a group of green sea turtles calls South San Diego Bay home! For the past ten years, Ocean Connectors has been bringing students to the Living Coast to get up close and personal with green sea turtles. They also get to observe one of the Living Coast’s newest additions, a rescued loggerhead sea turtle. Ocean Connectors students form a personal connection with marine life, learn facts about each species at the Living Coast, and then share their knowledge with a group of their peers in Nayarit, Mexico during the Ocean Connectors “knowledge exchange”.
Many people are surprised to learn that sea turtles live in San Diego, due to their elusive nature and the fact that most sea turtle species are found in tropical waters. What is even more amazing is that many of the 60-80 sea turtles that eat and sleep here in San Diego Bay migrate down to Mexico to reproduce and lay their eggs on Las Islas Revillagigedo. Ocean Connectors uses these unique teaching points to empower students, both in National City and Mexico, to help spread the word about how we can all help protect these beautiful animals. Sea turtles can be harmed by pollution, boat strikes, poaching, climate change, and other issues, which have caused their numbers to dip to dangerously low levels over the years. By making a personal connection with sea turtles at the Living Coast and sharing their experience with children in another part of the world that sees these same animals, sea turtles may have a better shot at survival.
Unlike many of the school groups that visit the Living Coast, Ocean Connectors works directly with our team to develop the most comprehensive education program possible for its students. Their visit is much more than a tour, but rather an in-depth program that has been modified year after year to connect students with the incredible species found locally. Thanks to support from The San Diego Foundation, this year the Living Coast and Ocean Connectors have been able to expand our partnership and collaborate on educational resources for schoolteachers to bring sea turtle lessons back into their classrooms, thereby extending the learning experience beyond the field trip (check out the Ocean Connectors Resources page here). This grassroots partnership has been very successful in helping to connect National City students and their families with an important, yet endangered species – the Eastern Pacific green sea turtle.
The Living Coast Discovery Center is a nonprofit educational zoo and aquarium located within the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The Living Coast offers hands-on exhibits and up-close encounters with plant and animal species native to Southern California, including sea turtles, sting rays, leopard sharks, jellies, shorebirds, reptiles, raptors, and more. Thanks to support from many generous partners including The San Diego Foundation, Ocean Connectors has been bringing students to the Living Coast for the past ten years. For more information please visit www.thelivingcoast.org.
All photos by Anna Mar, Ocean Connectors Field & Office Coordinator.